Ilmatar Windpower is a utility company with a difference. Born of a passion to help combat climate change and its devastating effects on our lives and environment, Ilmatar is dedicated to the supply of clean and affordable wind power as part of the drive to transition to renewable energy sources.
The company has recently made their own transition to magnificent new headquarters in Helsinki, designed according to sustainable practices with the aim of achieving optimum efficiency and wellbeing. AV solutions experts 4Business Oy were called in to design and implement all the AV technologies for the new premises, which included a Smart IP audio solution from Genelec.
One of the biggest issues to be addressed from an audio point of view was auditory comfort in Ilmatar’s open workspaces – an integral part of any modern, activity-based office today. However, one of the inherent problems of any open plan workspace is a lack of privacy and disruptive noise coming from elsewhere in the environment. Ilmatar was determined to create the most comfortable and efficient working environment possible in their open plan areas, and so paid great attention to sound behaviour in these spaces.
“The lobby and open work areas, as well as the meeting rooms and offices, are all exceptionally well designed from an acoustic point of view, with excellent reverberation times,” notes Janne Lankinen of 4Business. “There are also absorbing screens between the desks, and the background noise caused by ventilation has been minimized. Nevertheless, while these measures help considerably, they cannot resolve the issue completely. To achieve optimum results, we designed and implemented a custom sound masking system – starting with a high quality audio solution – specifically tailored to Ilmatar’s requirements.”
It met all of the client’s criteria for quality, as well as being the most sustainable audio solution.
Based on detailed coverage simulations, 4Business implemented a comprehensive Genelec audio system; a total of twenty 4420 Smart IP speakers were distributed across two separate open plan spaces. “We selected Genelec’s Smart IP solution as it met all of the client’s criteria for quality – both sonically and materially – as well as being the most sustainable audio solution available,” explains Lankinen. The Smart IP technology platform delivers power, audio and control over a single CAT cable across a digital audio network – in this case, Dante – making them exceptionally easy to install and ensuring that the systems are fully scalable.
“The site-wide loudspeaker system was individually measured with room acoustics analysis software and adjusted using Genelec’s Smart IP Manager software to ensure the most transparent audio reproduction possible,” continues Lankinen. “Technical criteria aside, the fact that Genelec is a native Finnish brand and manufactured in Finland according to sustainable principles was also extremely important for Ilmatar.”
Implementation of the masking signal itself fell to Pyry Survo, sound designer and composer for WSP, global infrastructure experts. Survo designed the signal to be as pleasant and even as possible – an ambient background sound that mimics airflow and is specifically engineered to match the frequencies of human speech and to sound comfortable. The sound is audible but not intrusive and serves to reduce speech intelligibility in the surrounding environment. Nearby conversations or telephone calls are no longer a distraction, ensuring comfort and privacy for all concerned.
“A high quality sound system and careful spatial measurement of the audio signal avoided the ‘whoosh effect’, which is a problem with low quality speakers and the wrong type of audio signal,” explains Lankinen. “The masking system generates a multichannel audio signal to avoid the sound distortion caused by differences in speaker distance that typically occurs with mono sound masking systems.”
In addition to the sound masking, Ilmatar had another objective; to create a unique atmosphere that reflects the company ethos of working with nature in order to preserve it. A generative soundscape emulating a natural marine environment with sounds of the sea, seagulls, and of course, the wind – was created for the entrance lobby and implemented using a WSP multichannel soundscape player and eight Genelec 4430 Smart IP active loudspeakers. Virtual nature is created with algorithms that mimic the mechanisms and the timelines of the natural world so that the soundscape remains as authentic as possible and avoids playlist-like repetition. A soothing four-channel forest soundscape was also created for the café area which is equipped with four Genelec 4430s in white.
We are delighted with the outcome and believe that we have one of the most comfortable offices in Finland.
Mikko Toivanen, VP and co-founder of Ilmatar Windpower Oy is delighted with the results: “Our goal was to create the best office in Finland for our staff; making full use of new innovative technologies in terms of comfort and usability was a major goal. This was achieved by 4Business thanks to their consultative sales methods and technical expertise, ensuring an excellent end result. We are very pleased with the outcome and believe that we have one of the most comfortable offices in Finland.”